Human Rights Film Festival

The Human Rights Film Festival makes it’s return at the Grand Forks Empire Arts Center.


Ava Stockstad, Reporter

On November 8th in downtown Grand Forks, the Empire Arts Center held its fourth annual North Dakota Human Rights Film and Art Festival (NDHRFF). The festival has made its way across North Dakota to share feature films and narrative stories about human experience and struggles.   

The Empire Arts Center has been open since 1998 and is home to dozens of theatre performances, film showings, and art exhibitions. This year, the festival is showing films of four different genre categories – documentary features, narrative feature films, narrative shorts, and documentary shorts.   

In the Documentary Feature category is eight different short films. All these works are listed on the website in the Virtual Catalog tab. Here is just a handful of the films that are included in the Documentary Feature category.  

Black Kid, White Town; “After George Floyd’s murder, a Minneapolis hip-hop artist named Nur-D decides to fight for change through his actions and music.”  

The Bright Path; “Eastern Ukraine, May 2014. Part of the historic Donbas region falls to pro-Russian separatists. Young journalist Stanislav Aseyev reports for several Ukrainian media outlets from Donetsk, his hometown. In May 2017, he is kidnapped and spends 962 days in detention…”  

“Bring Her Home follows three Indigenous women… as they work to vindicate and honor their relatives who are victims in the growing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.”  

“Water Talks: Perceptions from Sierra Gorda… documents efforts to promote and improve water and wetland management and conservation in Queretaro, Mexico.”  

Rhythms of Migration; “follows a group of African youth migrants living in Sicily as they create a musical album about their migration experiences.”  

Next comes the Narrative Feature Film category. These films are said to tell a cohesive fictional story, while the Documentary Feature films are instead used to document real-time people and events. There are two films included in the Narrative Feature Film category.  

First is Rukh: “Fate unexpectedly brings two individuals together, changing the lives of both.” The other film in this category is The Wind and the Reckoning “reveals the real-life story of a Native Hawaiian ranching family that defies the newly established colonial government and faces down American mercenaries rather than have their freedoms callously ripped away.”  

The third category is Narrative Shorts with five different films available for viewing. Here is the synopsis of a few:  

Hazard; “A Black family takes a camping road trip for the first time but has a run-in with two white police officers.”  

Seesaw; “a fictional account of a child working relentlessly to support his family with lost hope, who represents millions of other like him, and how one activist liberated thousands of these children and brought them into the light.”  

Rising Lotus; “A Punjabi immigrant woman stuck in an abusive arranged marriage finally musters the strength to escape when she realizes that her estranged son’s life is in danger.”  

In the last category is Documentary Short where a total of eighteen films were available for showing. A few of these films include:  

Fisheyes; “…an animated documentary that explores the shift in the identity and values of Hong Kong’s people by addressing the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong in 2019.”  

I Am: “I Am invited an intimate view into an African-Australian experience… reveals a sophisticated relationship of how it feels to be Australian in a country where being African separates Charity from the considered norm.”  

On the Pulse of Life; “Dive into the birth justice moment in Alameda County, California, where Black babies are less than half as likely to survive as white babies, fighting for a future where “the first few breaths of life” are equally precious for all.”  

That’s None of My Business; “Robert Honeysucker and Nicholas Bosanquet recall their youthful attempt to desegregate a concert by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London… their subsequent arrest, and the ensuing international uproar that inspired prominent musicians to boycott performances before segregated audiences.”  

The ND Human Rights Film and Arts Festival has been making its way across the state throughout the month of November. During the first week of November, the NDHRFF made its yearly debut in Fargo. Here in Grand Forks, the festival was scheduled for the 8th. Two days later, the festival occurred in Bismarck, and finally on December 6th, it will make its final appearance in Jamestown. While these events are great to attend in person, the films are also available for viewing online until December 6th. These films can be found on the NDHRFF website.   

Because this event is meant to encompass the local North Dakota area, local filmmakers are welcome to submit works to the festival for the chance to have their films shown. The NDHRFF Facebook page says, “in 2023, selected films and filmmakers will have the opportunity to have their films screened throughout North Dakota.” While there are four categories displayed in the festival this year, there are several other categories available to submit films to such as experimental films and episodic series.    

The festival is put on by The Human Family organization, which is based in Fargo and is described as “a multi-disciplinary media organization dedicated to the creation, support, promotion and distribution of human rights, social justice, and social issue-based projects” according to the Human Family website. The organization puts on a handful of other film festivals, including the North Dakota LGBT Film Festival and the ND Environmental Rights Film Festival.  

It is important to note that the NDHRFF is not the only event the arts center has to offer. The Empire Theatre Company, for example, is a professional theatrical group that coordinates and produces plays and musicals at the art center for the public. Also at the Empire is the 1919 Lounge, which is said to “deliver a unique and unforgettable nightlife experience in an intimate setting,” according to Cabaret-style performances are shown here at the 1919 Lounge for the public to attend. There is also the Empire Film Series, where “local film lovers will host themed series followed by open discussion of the films.” Another perk of the arts center is The Music Box, a monthly event where local artists can perform their music. Additionally, the Art Gallery is open to visitors, where regional art pieces are displayed.  

More information on the ND Human Rights Film and Arts Festival can be found at If you would like to hear more about the Empire Arts Center, their website can be found at The Empire Arts Center is always seeking volunteers to assist in holding events, and information for auditioning for theatre and music events is available on the website as well.   


Empire Arts Center  


415 DeMers Avenue  

Grand Forks, ND 58201  


[email protected]  


The Human Family Inc.  


PO Box 9468 Fargo, ND   


[email protected] 


Ava Stockstad is a Dakota Student Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected].